To what extent does the organization of government provide mechanisms to ensure that ministers implement the government’s program?

The organization of government successfully provides strong mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
In the Canadian system, the prime minister, in consultation with political staff, forms the cabinet and appoints his or her ministers, who serve on a discretionary basis. At the beginning of every mandate, ministers are sent a mandate letter by the PMO. They then work to implement the agenda outlined in this mandate letter, and are evaluated accordingly.
Any cabinet minister who is perceived by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to be a political liability will have a short career.

Deputy ministers (DMs) are tasked with ensuring implementation of the government’s priorities and supporting their respective Ministers and their portfolios. Deputies are appointed by the Prime Minister on the advice of the clerk of the Privy Council Office and are selected on a non-partisan basis through a vetting process, usually after an extensive career in public service in differing types of operational and policy roles.
Government of Canada, “Guidance for Deputy Ministers,”
Under the Orbán governments, Orbán’s strong and uncontested position as party leader and prime minister, as well as the strong capacities of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), have ensured a high level of ministerial compliance. Ministers see themselves, and are seen by the PMO, as representatives of the government in the ministries rather than representatives of ministries in the government. The radical reshuffling of the cabinet after the 2018 parliamentary elections has been aimed at raising ministerial compliance by bringing in committed ministers and by sending a strong signal that everyone is replaceable.
In Sweden, ministers and departments do not implement policy. The task is handled by the executive agencies. Additionally, there is no ministerial oversight in Sweden, which means that the agencies are fairly autonomous when it comes to implementing policies (Petridou, 2020).

A major concern in Sweden is the degree to which ministers can, and should, steer the agencies. Swedish agencies are highly autonomous, but departments can formally steer them by appointing the Director General of the agency, deciding on the regulatory and institutional framework of the agency, and allocating financial resources to specific tasks and programs (Premfors and Sundström, 2007).

In Sweden, as in many other countries, the relationship between departments and agencies, and the willingness of the latter to implement policies defined by the former, can hinder or enable implementation. In Sweden, the relationship between departments and agencies is an institutional relation, not a personal relation between a minister and the director of an agency. Thus, to the extent that it is meaningful to talk about incentives, they must be organizational incentives. Furthermore, implementing policy is a core role for the agencies, so incentives are hardly necessary.
Petridou, Evangelia. 2020. “Politics and Administration in Times of Crisis: Explaining the Swedish Response to the COVID-19 Crisis.” European Policy Analysis, 6(2), 147-158.

Premfors, Rune and Göran Sundström. 2007. ”Regeringskansliet.” Malmö: Liber.
The president has a high level of control over appointments such as agency and department heads. They serve at the president’s discretion and need the support of the White House for their success. Conflicts between the department heads and the White House occasionally emerge, but they are usually limited to a speech or remark that conflicts with presidential policy. As recent presidents have upgraded their ability to monitor agency activities and to draw major issues into the White House, conflicts between the agencies and the White House have largely disappeared. In some cases, agency heads ignored or discounted apparent orders from President Trump, which appeared to reflect his spontaneous, un-deliberated responses, often conveyed via Twitter rather than formal presidential documents. We do not consider these instances to constitute failures of compliance. So far, President Biden has clearly steered away from his predecessor’s widely criticized mercurial style.
Strong party discipline and adherence to the Westminster doctrine of cabinet collective responsibility ensure that ministers have strong incentives to implement the government’s program, rather than follow their own self-interest. It is unheard of for ministers to not implement the government’s policy agenda and it is accepted practice that a member of cabinet who cannot publicly support the government’s policies will resign from cabinet.
Cabinet discipline has perhaps been somewhat weaker in recent years, but this has never manifested in a failure to implement the government’s policy agenda.
Pat Weller, Prime ministers, in: Brian Galligan; Winsome Roberts, The Oxford Companion to Australian Politics, Sydney: Oxford University Press 2007, S. 460 – 463.
The president annually evaluates his or her ministers’ policy performance. In a commission consisting of the president’s advisory ministry (Secretaría General de la Presidencia, Segpres) and budgetary units of the government, ministers have to present their sectoral priorities, and if necessary, arrangements and modifications are made to ensure alignment with the government program.
Denmark has parliamentary rule. The government can be forced to retire any time if in the minority in parliament. The prime minister is the leader of the government, and he or she does not allow ministers to pursue interests that are not compatible with the declared goals of the government. Close scrutiny by parliament, including by parliamentary committees and an attentive press, seldom allows rogue ministers to behave this way for long. The prime minister can both fire and promote ministers, so there are incentives to do what the prime minister expects. It is not unusual for ministers to be replaced. Party members can of course revolt against a prime minister, but this happens rarely in Denmark. There is a high degree of party discipline.
Carsten Henrichsen, Offentlig Forvaltning. 2. ed. Copenhagen: Forlaget Thomson, 2006.
Compliance by ministers, when compared internationally, is good, as a minister can be dismissed at any time and without explanation. In the French majority system and in the absence of real coalition governments, the ministers, who are nominated by the president, are largely loyal to him. Together with the effective hierarchical steering of governmental action, ministers have strong incentives to implement the government’s program, following guidelines set up by the president and prime minister. This statement remains true but is highly dependent on the leadership capacities of the president and prime minister. Unlike his predecessor, Macron has made clear that strict compliance is expected from ministers, and there is no doubt that his leadership and policy choices will be supported by ministers who, for most, are not professional politicians.
Ministers usually follow party lines, but individual ministers have considerable authority to make independent decisions. Even so, non-collective decisions are rare.

Under the 2009 – 2013 cabinet, dissent among ministers occurred, but it had little to do with specific ministerial actions. Subsequent cabinets have experienced no such ministerial discord – except the aforementioned episode involving former Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson after the Panama Papers scandal in 2016.

During the COVID-19 pandemic (2020–2021), the minister of health did not announce any new regulations or restrictions without discussing the matter at a cabinet meeting. Regulations on Government Procedures (2018) states that cabinet meetings should be held regarding innovations in law (i.e., bills that ministers intend to submit to the Althingi as government bills) and important political issues. Important political issues include regulations and declarations that constitute an important measure or a change of emphasis, exceed the stipulated budget allocation, or impact the economy in general.
Regulations on government procedures. (Reglur um starfshætti ríkisstjórnar. Nr. 791 2018).
Organizational devices that encourage ministerial compliance include a public statement of policy intent, a government declaration signed by each minister, a coalition agreement outlining the terms of cooperation between the governing parties, and an informal weekly coalition-council meeting. Additionally, the government office monitors compliance with cabinet decisions, while the PKC monitors the implementation of the government declaration. Both reporting streams enable the prime minister to fully monitor individual ministers’ progress in achieving the government’s program. Nevertheless, disagreements between ministers often become public and can be divisive. In former governments, ministers have disagreed over the EU migrant relocation scheme and tax system reform.
New Zealand
There is a strong tradition of a highly cohesive system of cabinet government. Ministers are allowed to disagree over policy initiatives – even in public – but once a decision has been made in cabinet, they must follow the collective will. The prime minister has the power to appoint and dismiss ministers (formally it is the governor-general who does this on the advice of the prime minister). Labour party ministers are appointed through a process of election by all the party’s parliamentarians, with the prime minister’s direct power being largely limited to the ranking of ministers and allocation of portfolios. Naturally, in coalition governments or minority governments with support agreements with other parties, the prime minister’s power over the personnel of another party is somewhat restricted, although the actual number of cabinet positions assigned to each small party is largely a matter for the prime minister.

Collective responsibility within a formal coalition arrangement is strengthened by an extensive list of coalition management instruments, based on a comprehensive coalition agreement regarding the legislative agenda but also procedures to ensure coalition discipline. There are also procedures for dealing with a minority government.
Coalition partners are not bound by collective responsibility. Rather, they are brought into cabinet meetings only to discuss their own portfolio issues, so that they may retain the freedom to disagree with the lead party in the government should they so wish.
Cabinet Office Circular CO (15) 1 (Wellington: Cabinet Office 2015).
There is a strong tradition of united cabinet government in Norway. The cabinet meets several times a week, and government decisions formally need to be made in cabinet. The convention of close ministerial cooperation increases ministers’ identification with the government’s program and makes the government work as a team. As long as divisions between coalition partners are not strong, this system guarantees relatively strong cabinet cohesion, as has been the experience in recent years.
South Korea
Ministers in South Korea do not have their own political base, and thus depend almost solely on the support of the president. The president has the authority to appoint and dismiss ministers, and frequently reshuffles the cabinet. This high degree of turnover limits ministers’ independence, as they are unable to develop their own voice to pursue their own or institutional policy ideas. Conflicts between ministries are frequent but do not substantially affect overall policymaking within high priority policy areas, due to the coordinating role of the president’s office. The fragmentation of government activities in policy areas that are not prioritized by the president is a frequent subject of criticism, and ministries often fail to coordinate activities in these fields. “Liberal” administrations such as the Moon government tend to face greater challenges in controlling the traditionally conservative bureaucracy than do their conservative counterparts. This dynamic was on display in the 2019-2020 battle between the Ministry of Justice (which pushed for President Moon’s prosecutorial reform initiative) and the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office (which blocked it).
Until 2020, all prime ministers since the restoration of democracy in 1977 presided over single-party governments. Thus, all ministries were chaired by members or persons close to the same party or to the prime minister. The prime minister (who is the leader of the governing party) has been free to reorganize government structures and dismiss ministers he does not consider able or willing to implement the government’s program.
The constitution (which stipulates that parliamentary confidence rests personally with the prime minister and his comprehensive government program), internal party discipline and the organization of the executive thus all provide strong incentives for all ministers to implement the overall government program rather than seeking to realize the sectoral interests of their individual departments. However, the weak dynamic of collective deliberation within the cabinet, and the tradition of departmentalism (with broad levels of autonomy accorded to ministers within their department’s jurisdiction) may erode cabinet cohesion.
Hence, the first minority coalition government, which took office in January 2020, subjected ministerial compliance to a stress test. The coalition agreement established some priorities, policy projects and mechanisms for discussing internal disagreements. On several occasions, the PSOE accused its junior partner, Unidas Podemos, of behaving simultaneously as a part of the government and the opposition. In 2021, there were several notable instances of policy dissonance between the parties. Discord within the coalition reached a fever pitch due to a combination of political differences and personality clashes. In March, Podemos’ leader decided to leave the cabinet. However, the coalition was nonetheless able to advance its ambitious legislative agenda.
Politico, March 2, 2021 Spain’s governing partners show bad blood in public.
The prime minister has traditionally had more or less absolute power to appoint (and fire) ministers. Prime ministers use this power of patronage to earn the loyalty of backbench members of parliament and to ensure that ministers stick to the government agenda. The prime minister is also able to reshape the machinery of government, such as the remit and composition of ministries and cabinet committees.

Despite occasional leaks, the collective responsibility of cabinet is a well-entrenched doctrine, with standards of behavior are set out in the Ministerial Code. The prime minister’s power is partly dependent on the incumbent’s political strength, and calculations by their party and potential rivals as to their future electoral success (which is directly linked to their own job security). Party whips also play a key role in passing legislation and thus in supporting the government, and any members of parliament with strong political ambitions have to be wary of being branded as mavericks. However, this label has become significantly less stigmatized over the past couple of years and Conservative members of parliament elected recently, especially the 2019 newcomers, many from what were previously Labour constituencies and with less experience of Parliament because of the long period of lockdown, are sometimes considered to be more prone to rebellion.

Following the 2016 referendum, several ministers publicly dissented from the government line on Brexit, with some ministers even resigning from the cabinet, while others used leaks and briefings to undermine the prime minister. As with other questions on executive capacity, the particular circumstances of Brexit being implemented by a minority government were unusually difficult. The ensuing disputes within the cabinet blocked Theresa May’s key policies and finally collapsed her government. Her successor, Boris Johnson, who was a central figure in sabotaging Theresa May’s premiership, has – after the clear victory in the 2019 general election – managed to reinstate the discipline he himself helped undermine.

During the pandemic and in the development of policies for recovery from it, there has been little sign of ministerial dissent. Moreover, the government was able to push through unpopular tax increases, despite these being at odds with manifesto commitments. Yet, several policies at the heart of the Conservative program – leveling-up being a prime example – have been postponed while attention was focused on the pandemic and are only now being taken forward.
The organization of government provides some mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
One must distinguish de jure powers from the government’s de facto powers to provide incentives to each minister. De jure, the prime minister has little power to exclude ministers from the government. The main architects of government positions are the party presidents who, at the government-formation stage, negotiate for control of the various portfolios and then nominate their people. Every minister’s primary incentive is thus to push his or her own party’s views, rather than the government’s potential view. The same holds for secretaries of state (junior ministers).

That said, this hierarchical structure is actually able to impose strong discipline on each minister when the incentives of party presidents are sufficiently aligned with those of the government. Regular meetings of the Kern and consultations with party presidents in effect ensures the implementation of the government agreement and provides fine tuning whenever new developments make reactions necessary.

The current government was formed as a coalition without much political coherence other than the fear of renewed elections and, with them, the rise of radical parties (far-right nationalists in Flanders and the far left in Wallonia). The appointment of the current prime minister, therefore, did not follow the tradition that the choice should be made by the country’s leading political grouping. He nonetheless enjoys a relatively high level of popularity, placing him in first or second place among political personalities in all three regions in the latest polls. He is further seen as able to remain above the fray and act as a referee, which probably allows him to avoid conflicts with the presidents of other parties in the coalition. However, this has earned him criticism from his own political allies, the right-of-center liberals, for being too accommodating with left-of-center coalition partners.
Estonia typically has coalition governments; reaching an agreement on priorities and goals of the future government is the core issue of the cabinet-formation process. After a coalition cabinet is sworn in, it generally acts in accordance with the government program and rules of procedure signed by all coalition partners. The process of program implementation is coordinated by the coalition committee, comprised of a representative of each coalition partner. Compared to some previous governments, the sitting coalition places less emphasis on the coalition committee, instead discussing most issues openly at cabinet meetings. Government decisions are made on the basis of consensus, which empowers a junior coalition partner to block a policy decision agreed by the other coalition partners.
A number of mechanisms are in place that serve to bind ministers to the government’s program. Government programs result from negotiations between the political parties forming the government; in consequence, the coalition partners and ministries closely monitor implementation. Cabinet agenda issues are generally prepared, discussed and coordinated in cabinet committees as well as in informal groups and meetings. On the whole, ministers are closely watched and are expected to be integral parts of cooperative units. They would no doubt find it difficult as well as unrewarding to pursue paths of narrow self-interest.
The current coalition government represents a range of different agendas and priorities. The allocation of ministries between the parties has a significant influence on the overall coherence of government policy. The participation of the Greens in government had an important impact on measures that are intended to address climate change in the government program, for example.

Individual ministries are to a significant degree independent fiefdoms that can be used by individual ministers to pursue their self-interest – including boosting their chances of reelection – rather than any comprehensive government objective. The system requires even senior ministers to spend considerable time and energy in local constituency work, because few are sufficiently distanced from the risk of losing their seat at the next election.

The two ministries with overarching responsibility for coordinating this program are the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance.

Ministers are not involved in the appointment or promotion of civil servants; at the higher levels of the civil service, appointment is now in the hands of the independent Top Level Appointments Commission. However, a 2014 conflict over the roles of the minister for justice and the commissioner of the Garda Síochána (the police force) led to the resignation of both men, and eventually the departure of the secretary-general of the Department of Justice.

Ministers select their own advisers and consultants and these exercise considerable influence. An increasing trend in recent years has been the appointment of leading journalists as ministerial advisers. For the most part, however, individual ministers do implement government policy. But over time there is a tendency for some to pursue increasingly idiosyncratic goals. The ultimate sanction can be exercised by the taoiseach, who can seek to increase ministerial compliance and government cohesiveness by reshuffling the cabinet.
Coalition agreements between the parties supporting the government are in general the ordinary instrument for guiding ministers in the implementation of the government program. During the life of a cabinet, summits between the prime minister and the leaders of the coalition parties are often used to solve problems arising in the implementation of the program. Under the Draghi government, the need to ensure the timely implementation of the goals set by the Recovery and Resilience Plan has led to an institutionalization of these summits, which now take place regularly and frequently.
Japan’s political framework formally provides the prime minister with powerful tools to control ministers. Prime ministers can appoint and fire ministers at will. Moreover, prime ministers can effectively veto specific sectoral policies. In practice, however, prime ministerial options have been more limited, as most have lacked full control over their own parties and over the powerful and entrenched bureaucracy.

Recent governments have sought to centralize policymaking within the core executive. Some measures have been institutional, such as giving new weight to the Cabinet Secretariat attached to the Cabinet Office and to the Council for Economic and Fiscal Policy, a cabinet committee in which the prime minister has a stronger voice. Other measures include affording the prime minister a stronger role in top-level personnel decisions, aided by the creation of the Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs in 2014. Such institutional measures have proved quite successful, and certainly former Prime Minister Abe (2012-2020) had a strong grip on ministerial appointments.
Michael Macarthur Bosack, Abe shows his command over LDP in reshuffle, The Japan Times, 12 September 2019,
Whatever problems there may be with the Mexican system, it does deal effectively with the so-called agency problem, cabinet secretaries mostly have a strong incentive to avoid incurring presidential displeasure. The presidency is the center of the Mexican government and defines whole-of-government strategic priorities. Especially under President López Obrador, the degree to which power is centralized has increased, and the government is tracking progress on the implementation of policy priorities. At the same time, the second part of the presidential term usually increases the agency problem for the president. Given the results of the midterm elections, one can expect that this will also happen to AMLO’s presidency.
Government in Switzerland is not (primarily) party driven. Ministers are expected to work together as a collegium, and to abstain from any politics or policies that benefit their party or themselves as individual politicians. In general, this worked quite well so long as all members of government felt bound by the rules of collegiality. In recent years, due to growing political polarization and an attack on consociational politics by the right-wing populist party, there have been some deviations from this course. However, even in periods of polarized politics, the Swiss government and its policy implementation is much less driven by the interests of individual politicians or parties than is typically the case for parliamentary governments. In the current review period, ministerial compliance and cooperation were much more pronounced than between 2003 and 2007.

In the Swiss federal system, implementation is first the task of the cantons and even the municipalities. Implementation therefore must be seen as a multilevel process. According to Sager and Thomann, implementation varies among the cantons and is determined by political party government composition, policy pressures and bureaucratic preferences at the cantonal level.
Sager, Fritz, and Eva Thomann (2016). “A Multiple Streams Approach to Member State Implementation Research: Politics, Problem Construction and Policy Paths in Swiss Asylum Policy,” Journal of Public Policy 37 (3): 287–314.
The prime minister does not have significant legal powers over the other ministers. The constitution defines the Council of Ministers as a collective body presided over by the prime minister. The position of the prime minister thus strongly depends on the officeholder’s informal political authority and ability to appoint and dismiss deputy ministers.

The construction of the 2021 coalition government assigns a very substantial oversight role to the prime minister. The fact that the finance minister is a deputy prime minister also promises better coordination. At the time of this writing (January 2022), it remains unclear whether this new model will be implemented with success.
In principle, line ministers are responsible for policies that fall under their jurisdiction. Therefore, individual ministers have some leeway to pursue their own or their party’s interests. This leeway is substantial in international comparison. Ministers sometimes pursue interests that therefore clash with the chancellor’s preferences or with coalition agreements. However, the coalition agreement bears considerable political weight and has often proved effective in guiding ministry activities. In terms of budgetary matters, the Minister of Finance is particularly powerful and able – when she/he has the chancellor’s support – to reject financial requests by other ministries.

The new coalition agreement provides for some rules regarding when the coalition committee is to meet and who is to attend the meetings. As in previous coalitions, the committee consists of the chancellor and the vice chancellor, the leaders of parliamentary groups and party leaders (insofar as they are not the persons mentioned above). The coalition committee is informally the most important institution in resolving political disagreements within the government.

As part of the climate package, ministries are to be made responsible for climate reduction targets in the sectors under their responsibility. This is an important example in which the ministries are tasked with fulfilling the government’s overall objectives.
After the change in government in July 2019, the New Democracy government introduced strong mechanisms to encourage ministers to implement the government’s program. This included appointing two ministers without portfolio to assist the prime minister; establishing the well-resourced Presidency of Government, which includes units responsible for overseeing policy implementation in ministries; equipping the Presidency of Government with the digital infrastructure to monitor government work through integrated information systems; and scheduling regular cabinet meetings. In 2020–2021, a handful of mechanisms made sure that the implementation gap would not be as wide as it used to be during the period of economic crisis or in earlier periods.
The OECD and global best-practice methods have influenced Israel’s organization of government in recent years. Values of transparency, planning, comparability, and supervision are defined by a designated unit in the PMO, arguably improving the implementation of the overall government program by increasing ministerial accountability vis-à-vis the government and the public. These new actions accompany more traditional ways to improve compliance, such as weekly cabinet sessions and interministerial roundtable events.

Ministers’ accountability to the Knesset is anchored in Israeli law (Basic Law: the Government 1968). This means that ministries must support and follow government decisions. In addition, coalition agreements, created by the party system in Israel, can be considered a mechanism for the government to force its agenda on ministers. If a minister resists or fails to implement a part of the government program, the minister might be forced by their respective party leader to follow it.
Blander, Dana, “Hok Ha-Hesderim: Necessary evil or necessarily evil?,” IDI website 14.1.2007 (Hebrew)

Salonim, Ori, “Measuring performance in the public service,” The eleventh annual Hertzliya conference official publication (Hebrew)

“Book of working plans 2014,” PMO website (March 2014) (Hebrew)

Guidelines of the Attorney General In matters relating to the work Government, Ministry of Justice, 2015

“Gay Couples Denied Right to Surrogacy in New Law,” JPOST, 18.7.2018,
The government’s organization provides ministers with various incentives to implement the government’s agenda. The primary organizational instruments include coalition agreements, government programs, multiannual government priorities, identified priority actions and monitoring processes, cabinet meetings and deliberations, and the assignment of ministerial responsibility for policy areas. Since prime-ministerial powers within the executive are limited by constitutional provisions and the fragmentation of coalition governments, officeholders need to seek support from other cabinet ministers (including ministers of finance, who tend to share the prime minister’s party affiliation), from parliamentary groups, and from the president (who has a veto power over draft laws) as they seek to implement the major objectives of the government program. In addition, as they implement governmental policy, line ministries tend to focus on the sectoral-policy aims falling under their responsibility at the expense of related horizontal-policy aims. However, the previous Skvernelis government (2016 – 2020), in which most ministers were nonpartisan, with their selection based on their professional record as well as support from the president, increasingly faced tensions due to disagreements between the prime minister, sectoral ministers and members of the then-governing Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union parliamentary faction. This led to three ministers being sacked by the prime minister. An internal lack of agreement on draft policy proposals was reported to be one of the main reasons for delays in the implementation of some government-program measures in 2017 and 2018. Under the Šimonytė government, more attention has been devoted to monitoring implementation of the government’s program, including by the prime minister herself. However, since most important reforms foreseen in the program were explicitly planned for the years 2022 – 2023, it remains to be seen how they will be implemented.
The Luxembourg electoral system combines proportional representation using candidate lists with a type of majoritarian system that allows a voter to pick individual candidates by giving them preferential votes on more than one list.

Consequently, the voters, and not the party, decide on the composition of parliament and even of the government, since the candidates with the best results usually become ministers. This system encourages politicians to pursue personal initiatives, but as they generally address small lobbies, such projects do not typically conflict with the government’s agenda.
For a long time, the PiS government’s need to use specific organizational devices to pressure ministers to stay in line with the government’s program was limited, as the cabinet consisted of a group of people who were more or less hand-picked by PiS party Jarosław Kaczyński, and Kaczyński managed to handle internal debates and power struggles. Since the 2019 parliamentary elections, the situation has changed. In particular, ministers Ziobro and Gowin, both leading PiS’s smaller coalition partners, have become more assertive. To foster ministerial compliance, Kaczyński has entered the government as vice-prime minister following a major reshuffle in autumn 2020.
The organization of relations in the parliamentary and cabinet systems ensure that ministers have incentives to implement the government’s program. While ministers in the PS government that took office in late October 2019 were generally aligned with the government program, the fact that the government did not have a majority in parliament, and thus had to depend on other parties to pass legislation, did create difficulties with regard to ministerial compliance.
Dutch ministers’ hands are tied by party discipline; government/coalition agreements (which they have to sign in person during an inaugural meeting of the new Council of Ministers); ministerial responsibility to the States General; and the dense consultation and negotiation processes taking place within their own departments, other departments in the interdepartmental administrative “front gates” and ministerial committees. Ministers have strong incentives to represent their ministerial interests, which do not necessarily directly reflect government coalition policy. The record-long formation period for the Rutte IV government, which nevertheless consists of the same four coalition partners (VVD, CDA, CU, and D66) as Rutte III, resulted in a government agreement that is more than 50 pages long – a “delivery by forceps” according to one spokesperson. Thus, structural cleavages (along left-right, “good” populism versus anti-populism, immigration and ethical issues) and the legacy of distrust between the coalition partners from the previous Rutte III experiences will lead to considerable intra-cabinet tensions, and thus opportunities for individual ministers to highlight their party-political affiliation and downplay the government agreement. This tendency may be stronger than usual since the new cabinet promised to change the traditional “governing culture” (bestuurscultuur) in which the coalition or cabinet agreement was politically sacrosanct.
R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of The Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 140-163

NOS Nieuws, December 13 2021, Akkoord nieuw kabinet: “Het had soms iets van een tangverlossing.’

NRC, de Witt Wijnen, December 16, 2021. Elke partij kan eigen winstpunten noemen.

Volkskrant, Sitalsing, April 22, 2021. De ‘nieuwe bestuurscultuur’ waar je nu zoveel over hoort, is geen modegril, maar noodzaak
Ministers are primarily concerned with the agendas of their parties, rather than with that of the government as such. Ministers are selected by the head of each party – typically the chancellor and vice-chancellor. Their first loyalty is thus to party (and their party leader) rather than to the government as such. For this reason, ministers have incentives to implement the government’s program only as long as this is considered to be in the strategic interest of his or her party. Nonetheless, there are a number of informal mechanisms that help commit individual ministers to the government program. For that reason, parties within any coalition cabinet have to agree – informally or formally – not to oppose each other openly, for example, in parliament. Coalitions are usually based on a written agreement, including a political agenda and rules seeking to guarantee loyalty among the coalition partners – loyalty to the common agenda and loyalty defined as not siding with the opposition against the other. The resources available to the chancellor and his office at this level are notably limited.
In the past, Czech governments have tried to ensure ministerial compliance mainly through the use of well-defined government programs and coalition agreements. Differences between individual ministers and the government took the form of disagreements between parties, played out by threats of resignation, and were resolved through coalition negotiations. The Social Democrats’ poor showing in the 2017 parliamentary elections made them less assertive in the coalition. To secure ministerial compliance, Prime Minister Babiš was able to capitalize on his uncontested role as ANO leader and made heavy use of naming and shaming in the media, especially in publications and outlets that he controls. The compliance of the Social Democrats was secured mostly by using the threat of early elections.
The cabinet is the most important organizational device at the disposal of the government providing incentives and support to ensure ministers implement the government’s program. Second to this are the weekly meetings of permanent secretaries. Meanwhile, the powers of the Prime Minister’s Office have increasingly been used to drive policy implementation. The ministerial secretariat is generally responsible for overseeing the implementation of a program. However, this function has become more centralized; the government can now show how much of its program has been implemented. A yearly report provides details on each budget measure, indicating when it was implemented and by which ministry. A list of unimplemented measures is also included. 2021 has seen greater progress in terms of policy implementation. In addition, the Management Efficiency Unit in the PMO provides ministries with advice and capacity-building tools. Informal coalitions, for instance between civil society groups, businesses and individual ministries, can drive implementation in certain policy areas, such as the extension of LGBTQ+ rights, tourism or the construction sector. Parliamentary committees have also become useful in making policy implementation more efficient, for instance in the area of social affairs. However, bipartisan cooperation is all but absent in every sphere.
PM wants powers to appoint ministers who are not MPs Times of Malta 15/02/16
Implementation of government measure 2018
Times of Malta 04/10/2021 Over two-thirds of 2021 budget measures fulfilled – government
As head of a four-party coalition government (which became a three-party coalition government in 2021), Prime Minister Janša primarily relied on coalition meetings of narrow (including only the presidents of coalition parties) and broader composition (including ministers and members of parliament as well) in order to ensure the implementation of the government’s program. Janša often used meetings with experts from various fields and established a number of expert groups to assist in achieving the government’s policy objectives. However, Prime Minister Janša had a very tense (and sometimes combative) relationship with major media outlets and the majority of opposition parties. Consequently, the public had less insight into the outcomes of these meetings, as the media and opposition usually focused on the prime minister’s communication style, and less on the policies being proposed, adopted and implemented. While seven ministers either resigned or were removed from office during the 18 months of the Šarec government, there has been more stability under the Janša government, as only three minister resigned in the first 21 months of the Janša government.
Haček, M., S. Kukovič, M. Brezovšek (2017): Slovenian Politics and the State. Lanham, New York, London, Boulder: Lexington Books.
Turkey’s single-party government, which features strong party leadership and high demand for ministerial positions among party members, provides strong incentives to promote the government program. It is therefore difficult for ministers even with expertise in the areas they are responsible for to speak independently. The party leader’s charisma and standing, combined with the tendency within parties to leave personnel decisions to the party leader, prevent ministers from pursuing their interests during their time in office.

President Erdoğan actively intervened in the nomination of deputies, municipal mayors, the appointment of senior civil servants, and the organization of electoral campaigns. In other words, the office of the president, now entrusted with increasing powers, has replaced the offices otherwise established by the constitution. The current constellation thus raises the question of whether the effectiveness of the executive in general and the government, in particular, will be diminished by the existence of several centers of power, and suggests that the democratic separation of powers as a whole is eroding.
European Commission. “Turkey Report 2021. Commission Staff Working Document.” October 19, 2021.
The organization of government provides weak mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
The organization of that Croatian government generally provides only weak incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program. The situation has not changed significantly under last two Plenković governments (2016-2022). Interministerial coordination and regular communication between relevant ministries are very rare and of poor quality. As a result, numerous issues that the ministries should deal with eventually end up on the prime minister’s desk. This substantially reduces the ministries’ capacity for autonomous – full or partial – implementation of the government policies they are entrusted with. All this also slows down the whole policy implementation process because the prime minister has to deal with too many less important issues instead of concentrating on the strategic development of government policies.

A good example of this has been the inefficiency in implementing the reconstruction of buildings damaged in the earthquakes that hit Croatia in 2020. The Law on Reconstruction of Buildings Damaged in the Zagreb Earthquake was passed despite numerous warnings from the architectural profession and civil engineers that it was too complicated to be enforceable. As a result, a year later, in October 2021, the law was amended, but reconstruction was still very slow. The example once again showed that ministries are organized in a way that complicates decision-making processes aimed at implementing the government’s policies.

In many cases, required documents are missing, or months are taken to repeal unnecessary regulations that are hampering implementation. For example, it took six months to repeal a provision requiring public financial and technical control over building projects funded via public procurement mechanisms. Nowhere in the official documentation did it say that it was necessary to have this control; however, this proved to be a condition that had to be met before funds could be disbursed for reconstruction. Ministries and agencies generally have procedures in place that significantly slow down the implementation of government policies.
Ministers in Romania have traditionally held significant leeway in terms of deciding policy details within their departments. This leeway was exemplified in 2021, when the then justice minister, Stelian Ion (USR-PLUS), unilaterally decided to block an investment program that would provide RON 10 billion in funding to local governments to upgrade infrastructure. Prime Minister Cîțu (PNL) called blocking the investment scheme “blackmail,” a tussle which eventually resulted in the collapse of the governing coalition. While the USR-PLUS issued legitimate concerns over the scheme, claiming it would allow wealthy individuals access to easy financing without the checks of EU-funded projects (a claim supported by non-governmental organizations and other opponents), the move demonstrated the flexibility ministers have to influence government policy.
Since the 2016 elections, ministerial compliance has been complicated by the fact that governments have been composed of ideologically heterogeneous parties. Under the Pellegrini government, the vagueness of the government manifesto and the weakness of the prime minister allowed ministers to pursue sectoral interests and to follow party lines. The government manifesto of the center-right government has been more comprehensive and detailed. However, the ministers of the junior coalition partners have been difficult to integrate. Most of them have been political newcomers dependent on their party leaders, and the latter have often broken earlier agreements with the coalition partners.
Under the presidential system, the appointment and dismissal of a minister are the president’s prerogative. Implementation of line ministry policies rests entirely with each minister. The list of projects and works being implemented is posted on the website of EXANDAS. The monitoring of the execution of tasks is carried out by the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers. The absence of dedicated personnel or processes for the overall assessment of ministries and public policy compliance may be due to constitutional constraints.

Monitoring within line ministries is difficult due to the very broad scope of each ministry’s competences and departmentalization. This makes planning and coordination difficult to achieve. Progress in strategic planning would benefit policy implementation and provide evaluation benchmarks. However, it seems that this is still not being done.
The organization of government does not provide any mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
Back to Top